Playing With My Food

JUNE 14, 2011 8:39AM

Rocket Science

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von braun
  Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun,
A man whose allegiance
Is ruled by expedience.
Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown.
"Ha, Nazi Schmazi," says Wernher von Braun.

 "Wernher von Braun" - music and lyrics by Tom Lehrer


Wernher von Braun, the greatest rocket scientist of all time, began his life in Wirsitz in 1912. His family could trace their heritage back to medieval royalty, notably Edward III of England. His mother bought him a telescope for his Lutheran confirmation and young Wernher set his sights on the stars.

After World War I, Wirsitz became part of Poland and the von Braun family moved to Berlin. Already an accomplished cellist, von Braun studied music composition, notably with Paul Hindemith. He also started playing with homemade rockets and, at age 12, got himself arrested when his experimental rocket-propelled toy wagon blew up on a busy street.

The third stage of von Braun’s early career took him to boarding school, the Hermann-Lietz-Internat, on the East Frisian island of Spiekeroog. It was here that he first read Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (1929) (By Rocket into Interplanetary Space) by rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth and, for better or worse, his career went into orbit.

Wernher von Braun must have been a foodie since the post-war presence of German rocket engineers at Fort Bliss, TX was accidentally revealed in "German Scientist Says American Cooking Tasteless; Dislikes Rubberized Chicken,” an article which drew the ire of Albert Einstein. So, though he never lived in Westphalia, he certainly enjoyed the ham from acorn-fed pigs, fine German lagers, and the most complex rye bread ever developed.

detmold  Detmold, a city of 74,000 about 3 hours south of the East Frisian islands, lends its name to that bread, which like interplanetary rockets arrives at its destination in three stages of fermentation. I ran across the recipe over the weekend after I’d prepared a batch of rye starter. I was planning on making an ordinary rye (25% rye flour, 25% whole wheat, 50% high-gluten white) when I ran across this sentence in Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes:

“The Detmolder method of making sourdough rye bread, developed in Germany, is a fascinating  and highly effective technique that represents the highest expression of the baker’s skill.”

That sounds like a challenge! Let’s give it a whirl!

Each of the three stages has a specific goal in mind. The first, “freshening,” gives optimum conditions for yeast growth at 150% hydration and a temperature of 78°F for 6 hours. The second, “basic sour,” develops acetic acid potential at 60-65% hydration for 15 to 24 hours at 73° to 80°F. Finally, the “full sour” is used to develop lactic acid at 100% hydration for 3-4 hours at 85°F. Bulk fermentation is short (about 20 minutes) and final fermentation, after forming the loaves, is 1 hour at 82°F. Time and hydration are easy but temperature, like comedy, is difficult.

in the incubator   This is where inspiration hit. What if I hooked up my sous vide temperature controller to the dehydrator – wouldn’t I have an incubator? So that’s what I did. “Easy for you,” you say, “but I don’t have all those ridiculous cooking toys that you’ve filled your closets with.” Aha! Yes, but you do have a mind – and a thermometer. For the lower temperatures, room temperature is close. In summer, it’s cooler near AC vents and warmer close to windows. An oven with the light inside turned on, or a heating pad under a bowl of water – or just outside! – will get you 82° or 85°. Precision helps, but a bit of creativity will always get the job done.

second proof
  Here are the quantities and numbers for the Detmolder 90% rye method:


1½ Tablespoons whole-rye flour
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon rye culture (see my previous blog entry for details)

Mix and ripen for 5-6 hours at 77° to 79°F

Basic Sour

7/8 cup whole-rye flour
3/8 cup water
All of the freshening sour

Mix. Keep at 73° to 80°F for 15-24 hours

Full Sour

2¼ cups whole-rye flour
1 cup water
All of the basic sour

Mix. Keep at 85°F for 3-4 hours

Final Dough

 4 7/8 cups Medium rye flour
¾ cup high-gluten flour
1¾ cups water
1 Tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast (optional)
Almost all of the full sour (reserve 1 teaspoon for the next batch)

Mix in stand mixer for 4 minutes at low speed. If you have a spiral blade, great, but a dough hook won’t work. Increase speed to medium and mix for another 1 to 1½ minutes. Bulk fermentation takes only 20 minutes at 82° to 85°F.

Form into two loaves and allow them to ferment 1 hour at 82°F.

Baking: Score loaves and bake at 480°F for 10 minutes in high humidity (a pan of water on a lower shelf). Lower temperature to 410°F and bake for another 40-50 minutes. Allow to cool on baker’s rack, then wrap and allow to rest 24 hours for moisture to stabilize throughout the loaf.


 Clamps on the mixer prevent the bowl from jumping off when mixing heavy doughs.







 You can make round or elongated loaves as suggested in the Hamelman technique, but I chose to use standard loaf pans.





Johannes Brahms did live in Detmold from 1856 until moving to Vienna in the early 1860s. He was the soloist at the premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 1 in Detmold in 1859. Here is Arthur Rubenstein playing the first movement with Bernard Haitink conducting.

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foodie tuesday, food/drink

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I love anything "rye" including Salinger--lol....

Fascinating stuff.....Von Braun was actually the father of our space program. Nazi Germany was way ahead of us on that score which is why we looked the other way and brought them to the USA. The Nazi interest and fascination with ET's is little known but well documented. Once, when asked how Nazi technology came up with so many great "leaps" in science, he answered "from them" meaning ET's. I just watched a program about it. Who knew?????
I had NO idea about any of this.
Bread.. I miss good bread.
rated with hugs
What a great bit of history, I had no idea of his importance.
The bread recipe sounds amazing.
rated with love
Fitting title for a perfect post !